It’s ironic, if you think about it–the way writers reveal truths about humanity, truths spun entirely from lies.
As fiction writers, you make up fantastic lies to get to the truth.
That’s a lot of power in the hands of a writer.
And you take your role seriously, dreaming up electrifying ways to tell the truth:
- You watch people in the street when they think no one’s paying attention.
- You memorize the way a person walks, the way a person’s gaze changes when feeling anxious or fearful.
- You eavesdrop and linger, trying to capture the essence of difficult conversations.
- You mine your own painful traumas to find insight into human nature.
You do all these things and more to bring honesty to the page.
You long to give each reader a three-dimensional, immersive experience.
But you lie to yourself, too, when you’re tired or overworked.
You tell yourself big ugly lies to avoid finishing, to avoid the pain of giving birth.
It’s important to realize this because these lies can be devastating to your progress, to your dream of becoming a successful writer.
So, take this opportunity for a little self-reflection.
You want to get to the finish line, to your own storybook ending, to the ending only you can write.
Let’s take a closer look at these three big lies you keep telling yourself.
Lie #1: Writing is Too Difficult
Remember the moment you fell in love with writing?
If you do, that’s great!
I hope you’ve recorded your story.
For most, however, that love story evolved slowly, over the span of many years. At some point, after a series of wins, you thought, “I wish I could do this every day.”
Later, you thought, “I think I could do this every day.”
Fast forward to every day…
After writing for weeks, months, or years, you run into obstacles: financial problems, family problems, health problems. After conquering these issues, you contend with new ones: worry, procrastination, distraction, feeling uninspired.
Unfortunately, these issues come with the territory.
And because this love for writing runs deep, you feel especially vulnerable. When the writing slows, your thoughts get the best of you:
- This should be easy.
- I’m not enjoying this anymore.
- What’s wrong with me?
Writing is difficult—not all of the time, but enough of the time.
It’s not, however, too difficult.
Deep down, you know you can do this. You’ve always had a way with words–an easier time than most.
And as you learn and evolve your craft, you’ll work your way past the inevitable plateaus.
Remember, you’re always a sentence or two away from a breakthrough.Remember, you’re always a sentence or two away from a breakthrough. Click To Tweet
And that’s the best part about difficulty. When it looks impossible, you’re staring at an opportunity.
If writing were easy, everyone would be doing it. And it probably wouldn’t hold the same spark for you.
So, the next time you feel yourself wishing it were easy. Resist slipping into negativity.
I can sense your next question.
Yeah, writing is hard work, but…
How hard is too hard?
Lie #2: If Writing is this Hard, I Must Be Doing It Wrong
Like the first lie, the second plays on another fear—the fear that you’re doing something wrong.
When you struggle—continuously, it’s natural to think you’re missing something important, some new piece of information, some magic key that’ll unlock the door to progress.
The real problem?
Our instant, everything-on-demand culture warps our sense of process.
We want everything now.
We expect results—big results. Everywhere we look, we see results, not processes. That perfect hair and makeup on your favorite Instagram celebrity required hours of work behind the scenes. That souffle Martha Stewart pulled from the oven may be the fourth attempt of the day.
You’ll never get to see the trials, the failures, the hard work behind every process. Someone edits them out of the frame.
MJ DeMarco covers this topic beautifully in his book Millionaire Fastlane. Don’t let the cheesy title dissuade you; the book is fantastic. DeMarco builds a compelling case against this common misconception, this disconnect between events and processes.
Our culture’s in love with the myth of easy success:
- A factory worker quits his dirty job, becoming a millionaire business owner in under a year.
- An ordinary housewife stumbles upon a miracle cure for cellulite.
- After “seeing” the complete story in a dream, a bored housewife writes a best-selling novel over the course of a weekend.
The rest of us, struggling to keep our work-in-progress on track, see these “events” and start to wonder what we’re doing wrong, what it’s going to take to realize our true potential.
If the work is hard, fewer people will stay the course.
And like lie number one, you’re presented with the same opportunity.
Struggling with difficult work doesn’t mean it’s the wrong work.
And you can’t sit around expecting your muse to deliver the next blockbuster novel in your sleep.
So, embrace the difficulty. It’s part of any meaningful process.
If you still want to believe it should be easy, you could be setting yourself up for the third big lie—the worst of the bunch:
Lie #3: You Don’t Have What It Takes to Be a Writer
This third lie presents the greatest danger writers.
It says you’re fatally flawed, incapable, destined to fail.
It’s also the most seductive.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, uncertain about your future as a writer, you daydream about doing something else—anything else.
You begin to idealize careers that don’t involve writing. You daydream about working a nine-to-five job in a cubicle. You see yourself standing among smart, funny coworkers, spreading gossip around the water cooler, scheduling power lunches where you’ll compare notes on your 401K growth, your career trajectory, your weekend plans.
It’s a cop out—a path toward surrender, permission to quit.
Sure, giving up would bring you comfort. You could stop struggling and binge watch all the television shows you’ve been missing. You could sit in your pajamas and eat ice cream instead of trying to meet your word count before breakfast. But what about tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow?You could sit in your pajamas and eat ice cream instead of trying to meet your word count before breakfast. But what about tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow? Click To Tweet
How will you satisfy your creative urges?
How will you serve your better nature?
Henry Ford said it perfectly:
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
You decide you have what it takes. And when you’re not sure what that is, you keep writing. You create solutions as you need them.
The bad news?
These lies are wily, creative—almost as creative as you.
And they’ll find innumerable ways to get your attention, to stall your progress.
They’ll whisper to you as you finish each chapter, saying, “what were you thinking?”
“That was terrible.”
“That’ll never work.”
Truth doesn’t sound that way. It doesn’t criticize or peddle fear. In fact, it speaks softly, eloquently.
And it feels good when you hear it.
So, stop worrying about whether you have what it takes.
What it takes is to stare down these big fat lies every day and keep going.
Now, on to you.
What big fat lie has held you back? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
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